AMC drops plan to charge more for better seats at the movies

AMC Movie theatre in New York.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

AMC Entertainment dropped its plans to charge customers variable prices for movie theater seats.

The company announced its “Sightline” pricing strategy in February and tested it out at select locations in three U.S. markets. The program charged moviegoers more for the best theater seats, or “Preferred Sightline” seats.

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The program also reduced the price of seats deemed less attractive to patrons, such as those located at the front row of theaters.

The change comes as the movie theater industry suffers through a sluggish summer blockbuster season. And theaters are banking on this weekend’s “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” releases to bring much-needed foot traffic to theaters.

Shares of AMC Entertainment, were down about 2% in Thursday afternoon trading. The stock is up about 5% this year, lagging the broader market.

Preferred Sightline seats included select locations in the middle of the auditorium that are preferred by some moviegoers, whereas Value Sightline seats were those typically located in the front row.

The chain said the program would end at participating locations in the coming weeks.

The decision comes after the pilot program showed moviegoers had little or no interest sitting at the front row, even though prices were reduced. The company said it also found that most moviegoers continued to choose the seats they preferred, even at higher prices.

The company added that the pivot is to ensure AMC’s ticket prices remain competitive. Other theater chains like Regal are not charging higher prices for better seats.

The cinema chain said its focus will now be to test front row seating with more comfortable recliners in select locations in the United States later this year.

CNBC reached out to AMC for additional comment.

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